Public Lands Stewards: You’ve Only Got But One Life, So Live It

by | Land Stewards

The purpose of this blog is to inspire anyone who is interested in a Public Lands Stewards AmeriCorps position with the Mt. Adams Institute (MAI), but has yet to fully commit. This specific blog is oriented towards the Wilderness Ranger position in the Methow Valley Ranger District (the best district in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest).

The lifestyle. During your time as an AmeriCorps member in the Methow Valley, you’ll be living and working on a 6/8 schedule. That is, you’ll have six consecutive days off followed by eight days on. This work schedule gives you amble amount of time both in the field and on off days to explore. This past season the other MAI intern serving with me on the Methow and I both worked independent in the wilderness throughout the season. Due to the large size of the districts wilderness areas, the more boots on the ground the better. You’ll also be provided housing in a great little area called Mazama. There isn’t much to do around here other then recreating. I spent my off days hanging down by the river (which is right behind the house), biking the local trails, getting after it in the backcountry and bagging peaks, and sport climbing at the local crag called Fun Rock.

The work. The primary tasks of a wilderness ranger include making public contacts, which typically consists of saying hello, chatting with recreators about Leave No Trace ethics, where they’re headed, and any other pertinent information you can offer to better their experience in the backcountry. Another significant responsibility is data collection. You’ll be using a tablet or your smart phone to record the status of campsites, signs, or any other significant findings in the wilderness. Other duties will vary day to day depending on where you are in the wilderness, but could consist of installing signs and or pit toilets, working on a log out with the trail crew, packing stock and many other odds and ends.

Skills, certifications, and the future. The Methow Valley Ranger District and my supervisors have been fantastic at helping my get all the certificates and trainings I can get as an AmeriCorps intern. An extremely unique opportunity in the district is the Horsemanship and Packing certificate which is a week long training where you develop horsemanship skills and learn how to properly pack and use mules and horses. I was also able to receive my Class B Bucker Crosscut certificate and go on a few logout hitches with the trail crew. Lastly, I also received all the classroom portions of guard school (the process of receiving a red card to fight wildland fires), the S-130 and S-190. In the case I am hired by any federal agency I simply have to perform a pack test and attend a brief field day and I’ll receive my red card. This position will also give you ultimate networking opportunities with the Forest Service, specifically in the district. The opportunity with MAI and the Forest Service can and will act as a stepping stone to a job with a federal agency whether you’re looking to become a wilderness ranger, a member on a trail crew, or a wildland fire fighter. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this district is that everyone you’ll be working with is interested in helping you learn and grow and has your success in mind. It’s what this internship is all about and this district has done an excellent job in preparing me for the next step towards a federal position.

If you’re interested in a career or even just a few seasons as a federal employee the Public Lands Stewards program is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door, gain experience, and have the season of your life. I’m currently trying figure out my next step and it is difficult knowing there is nothing else like this out there. The lifestyle of living and growing in wilderness has been an unforgettable experience and I feel strong mentally and physically, independent, and more capable then ever after spending the summer solo in the wilderness. I feel pride in helping manage one of the most beautiful places in the country and feel so much a part of a community.

So I say do it. You’ve only got but one life so live it.